Sepsis, which contributes to billions of dollars in health-care costs each year, occurs when the immune system has an overwhelming response to a bacterial infection. The body releases chemicals into the blood to fight the infection, but this triggers widespread inflammation that can lead to blood clots and leaky blood vessels. In severe cases, sepsis causes shock, organ failure and death.
It's widely accepted that preterm babies and patients of all ages can acquire such infections via IVs, catheters and other tubes. These infections are thought to be hospital-based or otherwise associated with health care.
About 20 percent of preterm babies develop late-onset sepsis. Overall, about 10 to 20 percent of infants whose infections aren't successfully treated with antibiotics die because of the condition. This death rate varies according to the bacteria causing sepsis; some gut organisms result in higher death rates, in the range of 20 to 30 percent.
The Washington University investigators, including first author Mike A. Carl, a medical student at Saint Louis University, studied 217 premature infants from whom they collected all stool samples, beginning as soon as possible after birth. The babies had been admitted to the NICU at St. Louis Children's Hospital, which has stringent infection-control practices and sepsis rates that fall below the national average. Still, at or after three days of age, 11 of the infants developed sepsis.
The researchers, working with scientists at The Genome Institute at Washington University School of Medicine, used genome sequencing to compare bacteria in the bl
|Contact: Elizabethe Holland Durando|
Washington University School of Medicine